NFL Nation: 2010 Week 3 Power Rankings

Cowboys plummet in Power Rankings

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
2:56
PM ET
The NFC East has long been the darling of ESPN.com's weekly Power Rankings, but there's been a disturbing shift this season. The division nearly always features a team in the top 10, but the Dallas Cowboys' 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears caused panelists to lose patience and drop them a startling nine spots. The Washington Redskins now hold the highest ranking in the Beast for the first time in years.

NFC West blogger Mike Sando has taken the mystery out of the voting process and given us a front-row seat to how much John "The Professor" Clayton loves Mike Shanahan's team. Now let's break it down team-by-team and see which panelists deserve the most angry reader comments on their respective blogs:

14. Washington Redskins -- The Skins held steady at 14 despite their late collapse at home against the Houston Texans. Actually, I don't have a huge problem with that result. If they win that game, a No. 12 ranking was probably in order. I think the other voters are starting to catch up with Clayton in terms of showing more respect for Washington. In fact, AFC North blogger James Walker gave the Skins a higher ranking (13) than Clayton (14), which raised eyebrows at Redskins Park.

16. Philadelphia Eagles -- This seems about right. The Eagles moved up two spots from last week following their 35-32 road win over the Lions. Now everyone's waiting to see what the Eagles will do with Kevin Kolb back in the saddle. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky is bullish on the Eagles with a No. 12 vote but Walker canceled him out by leaving the Eagles at 18. That was one of the bigger voting discrepancies and I've asked Billy Barnwell and my Football Outsiders pals to look into this issue. Perhaps Walker needs to look at more variables.

17. Dallas Cowboys -- This was the second biggest drop of any team in the league. Only the Vikings suffered a more embarrassing fall. Sando still sees something in this team with a No. 14 ranking, but Kuharsky has completely bailed with a 19 on his ballot.

19. New York Giants -- I think almost any team in the league was going to get punished in a Sunday night game in Indy with the Colts coming off a humiliating effort in Houston. I'm almost willing to give the Giants a pass in that game and it looks like Clayton sort of agrees with me. He gave the Giants their best score at 16 but Kuharsky and Walker, both resentful of the NFC East's rabid fan base, had them at No. 20.

Week 3 Power Rankings: NFC North

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
2:43
PM ET
Week 3 of ESPN.com’s Power Rankings brought a bit of shakeup here in the NFC North, albeit expected. The Chicago Bears rocketed 10 spots up, the Minnesota Vikings plummeted 12 spots and for one week the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers briefly lost the Dragon Coin.

Let’s check out the fine print:

2. Green Bay Packers
Trending:
Unchanged from last week after a 34-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

12. Chicago Bears
Trending:
Up 10 spots from last week after a 27-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

18. Minnesota Vikings
Trending:
Down 12 spots from last week after a 14-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

29. Detroit Lions
Trending:
Unchanged from last week after a 35-32 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Power Rankings: AFC East still influential

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
2:38
PM ET
After much jumbling in recent editions of the Power Rankings, the AFC East still has three clubs among the top 10. No other division can claim that.

The Miami Dolphins shot up eight spots, the second-biggest climb of the week. The New York Jets recovered from last week's slide and improved five spots by beating the New England Patriots, who dropped five.

For the first time, the Buffalo Bills are rated the worst team in the NFL.

The Power Rankings panel consists of ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton, AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, AFC North blogger James Walker and NFC West blogger Mike Sando.

6. New York Jets

Previous rank: 11

My take: The Jets showed how difficult of a matchup they can be when their offense is clicking. Mark Sanchez looked every bit the part of a leading man. He shredded the Patriots' defense and threw touchdown passes to three targets. Without cornerback Darrelle Revis, they shut out the Patriots in the second half.

7. Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: 15

My take: The Dolphins are 2-0, but this ranking seems a little lofty. Their defense has looked impressive, especially linebacker Karlos Dansby and cornerback Vontae Davis. But I need to see more than two offensive touchdowns before I'm ready to consider them as great as the Power Rankings panel does. Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall have been quiet.

9. New England Patriots

Previous rank: 4

My take: Too many people got excited by the Patriots' decisive victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1. Sando had them rated second only to the New Orleans Saints. Now they've drifted back to a more reasonable place, in my mind. The holes in their pass defense were exposed. The loss of running back Kevin Faulk will hurt.

32. Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: 30

My take: The Bills have stated a convincing case for being the worst team in the league. Although they did hang tough against the No. 7 Dolphins on opening day, their game at Green Bay was an abomination. The Bills already have switched quarterbacks, and I don't think Ryan Fitzpatrick will ignite a hot streak.

NFC South Power Rankings analysis

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
2:16
PM ET
The ESPN.com Power Rankings for Week 3 are out and the New Orleans Saints remain at No. 1.

However, we’ve got one newsworthy development. John “The Anchor’’ Clayton didn’t weigh the Saints down this time. He finally joined the other voters and put them at No. 1, where they belong.

It’s actually a good week for the rest of the NFC South because the gap between the Saints and everyone else isn’t quite as wide as it was a week ago. Atlanta came in at No. 10. With a big game at New Orleans on Sunday, the Falcons probably have a chance to jump close to the top five, maybe even crack it, with a victory.

The undefeated Buccaneers are No. 21. I actually thought the Bucs might crack the top 20 and I’m surprised to see them sitting a little below some winless teams like Dallas and Minnesota. But I understand the skepticism because this winning thing is so new for the Bucs and it’s not like they’ve knocked off any heavyweights yet.

But they’ll have a chance to do that Sunday, when they host the Steelers, who are No. 5 this week.

Carolina has fallen to No. 28, which seems about right. But the Panthers should give thanks that the Lions, Browns, Rams and Bills still are in the league.
Here are the new ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings, with the AFC South making a strong showing at the top. The Texans vaulted to third with a dramatic comeback in Washington, while Indianapolis is fourth.

Recapping the division:

AFC North Power Rankings analysis

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
2:03
PM ET
ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings are getting more and more interesting.

Being on the panel, I can say from experience it was challenging ranking 32 teams this week. Things were particularly tough in the AFC North, where the Pittsburgh Steelers lead the division but aren't playing at full strength without star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

I anticipate plenty of debate. So here are how things shook out for the AFC North:

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)

Cumulative ranking: No. 5

Walker's ranking: No. 8

Analysis: I owned up to my incorrect prediction of Pittsburgh struggling without Roethlisberger. But I'm sure I will still get bashed by Steeler Nation for saying Pittsburgh is currently overrated in our Power Rankings. Without Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh remains unbalanced -- the offense didn't score a touchdown last week -- but the defense and coaching have been so good that the Steelers are winning. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton voted Pittsburgh No. 2 overall, which inflated the team's ranking. I voted the Steelers No. 8, one spot behind Baltimore, which I still believe is the most complete team with Roethlisberger sidelined. My theory will be tested in Week 4 when Pittsburgh plays the Ravens minus Big Ben.

Baltimore Ravens (1-1)

Cumulative ranking: No. 8

Walker's ranking: No. 7

Analysis: The Ravens didn't look good in Sunday's 15-10 loss to Cincinnati, but I'm not pushing the panic button. I still think Baltimore is one of the NFL's top teams. On the road, the Ravens got caught on a short week against an opponent that has their number. Clayton was at the Bengals-Ravens game and wasn't impressed. He ranked Baltimore the lowest on the panel at No. 12. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky kept the Ravens high at No. 3, despite the loss. Baltimore's defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown this season. But the offense is averaging just 10 points per game and needs to catch up. Look for an angry Ravens team to come back strong Sunday against Cleveland.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)

Cumulative ranking: No. 11

Walker's ranking: No. 10

Analysis: The Bengals were a tough team to rank. They looked listless in Week 1 against the New England Patriots, then toughened up with a quality win over Baltimore. I tend to think the Week 2 Bengals are more representative of this year's team. I ranked Cincinnati the highest of the panel at No. 10. Kuharsky called Cincinnati a "fluke" team to start the year and remains down on the Bengals. He had the lowest vote on the panel at No. 15. Some in "Bengaldom" may complain that Baltimore remains three spots higher than Cincinnati. But our panelists consider the entire body of work for two games, and Baltimore has been more competitive in that span.

Cleveland Browns (0-2)

Cumulative ranking: No. 30

Walker's ranking: No. 30

Analysis: The Browns blew another second-half lead, but they actually moved up two spots this week to No. 30. Our expert panel gave credit to Cleveland for losing to two surprise, undefeated teams in the Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0). But the Browns are only good for one half each week, and that will get you beat every time. Looking at their schedule, Cleveland may go a long stretch before getting its first win. So look for the Browns to be near the bottom of ESPN.com's Power Rankings for a while.
ESPN.com’s NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 3 were released Tuesday. Here are my thoughts on how the AFC West teams fared in the rankings:

San Diego Chargers
  • Power Ranking: 13
  • My Power Ranking range: 6-9
  • Why: I love my voters, but how can a team drop a spot in the rankings after a 25-point win?
Kansas City Chiefs
  • Power Ranking: 20
  • My Power Ranking range: 15-17.
  • Why: The Chiefs need a little more respect. This isn’t a great team yet, but Kansas City is doing what it takes to win.
Denver Broncos
  • Power Ranking: 22
  • My Power Ranking range: 20-22
  • Why: The Broncos showed some promise with a big win over Seattle.
Oakland Raiders
  • Power Ranking: 27
  • My Power Ranking range: 24-27
  • Why: We’ll know more about Oakland after a few more games. For right now, this slot is fair.

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